Seagate Momentus XT 500GB ST95005620AS Review

ajmatson - 2010-05-20 17:21:03 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: May 23, 2010
Price: $156

Introduction:

When it comes to storage solutions for your computer, you  have to choose between fast speeds with a solid state drive, or a slower, yet, high capacity mechanical drive. Sure you could buy an SSD for your boot drive and an HDD for storage, but that involves spending quite a pretty penny. On the other hand, what if you want something fast and high capacity for your netbook which only one has drive bay? Now you can have the best of both worlds.

Seagate has had this drive in the works for a while now, and has finally taken the covers off of it. This new drive introduces radically new technology that bridges the gap between slower mechanical drives and the speed of the SSD’s. Seagate named this series Momentus XT and it is what they call a Hybrid Drive. The Momentus XT uses both the traditional HDD platters for maximum storage in addition to a small internal SSD for increased access speed.

So what does this mean for the end user? With the Momentus XT, Seagate has developed a special algorithm that is called ”Adaptive Memory Technology”, which analyzes the users computing habits, such as if the user frequently opens Photoshop documents. The technology takes the most accessed files that Photoshop uses and stores them on the fast, 4GB SSD integrated on the drive. This allows the user to start the program faster because the data is pulled from the SSD, instead of having to spin the hard drive platters to seek the data. As the needs of the user changes, so does the data stored on the SSD of the drive. This also works for files pertaining to booting the operating system, email clients, games and more. The design of a traditional hard drive and the quickness of an SSD give a perfect balance between speed and storage space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

At first glance, the Momentus XT looks like any ordinary 2.5" drive. The magic however is embedded deep in the drive itself. The Momentus XT uses the smaller 2.5” form factor found in laptops and is becoming more popular in the desktop and server market. It comes in 250GB, 320GB and 500GB capacities, has a spin speed of 7200RPM for increased data speed and a 32MB cache. The solid state part of the drive is a 4GB SLC NAND flash module. Since the SSD portion of the drive is controlled by the hardware, the drive is platform independent and will function like any ordinary hard drive according to the operating system. This allows it to be used on any computer and OS without a decrease in performance or the need for special commands from the OS such as TRIM. The Momentus XT uses the Serial ATA II interface which has connectivity speeds up to 3.0Gbps and also features NCQ. NCQ stands for Native Command Queuing and allows the drive to optimize the order of queued requests to increase performance.

 

 

Now that we have seen the physical drive, let's dive in and see how the hybrid design affects performance.

Specifications:

Capacity:

500GB

320GB

250GB

Model Number:

ST95005620AS

ST93505620AS

ST92505610AS

Solid State Memory, SLC NAND (GB):

4

4

4

Interface:

SATA 3Gb/s NCQ

SATA 3Gb/s NCQ

SATA 3Gb/s NCQ

Cache (MB):

32

32

32

Head-Rest Method:

QuietStep Ramp Load

QuietStep Ramp Load

QuietStep Ramp Load

Load/Unload Cycles:

 >600,000

 >600,000

 >600,000

Nonrecoverable Read Errors per Bits Read:

1 per 10E14

1 per 10E14

1 per 10E14

Power (W) Seek, Typical:
Idle, Typical:

1.554
0.8

1.554
0.8

1.554
0.8

Temperature (°C) Operating:
Nonoperating:

0 to 60
~40 to 70

0 to 60
~40 to 70

0 to 60
~40 to 70

Shock (Gs) Operating 2ms:
Nonoperating 1ms:

350
1000

350
1000

350
1000

Acoustics (bels-sound power) Idle, Typical:
Seek, Typical:

2.3
2.5

2.3
2.5

2.3
2.5

Height (in/mm):

0.370/9.5

0.370/9.5

0.370/9.5

Width (in/mm):

2.75/69.85

2.75/69.85

2.75/69.85

Depth (in/mm):

3.95/100.35

3.95/100.35

3.95/100.35

Weight (lp/g):

0.238/110

0.238/110

0.238/110

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of Seagate via pre-release information.

Testing:

To test the new Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid Drive, I will be running a series of benchmarks designed to test the raw power of the drive. These tests are designed to push the drive to the limit and output scores that allow us to decide if the hardware is for us or not based on our needs. To get an idea of how the new Hybrid design stacks, up I put it up against a 7200RPM Seagate 3.5" drive also with a 32MB cache and several SSD's ranging from the lower end 64GB Patriot Torx to the new SandForce based, OCZ Vertex 2 100GB. To keep all scores consistant, all of the additional hardware were run at the same specifications including the speeds, timings, latencies and voltages. All of the drives were run as the main drive with a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional on them and all of the latest drivers and updates installed. Seagate was also kind enough to send us a few of the Momentus XT drives for testing so I also setup two of them in RAID-0 using the onboard ATI ACHI Raid for the ASUS M4A890GTD Pro board which uses the ATI SB850 Southbridge to control the RAID Array.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Modules:

 

Benchmarks:

  1. HD Tune 3.50 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2009
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. I/O Meter
  8. PCMark Vantage
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown

 

Some of the benchmarks are designed to test RAW IOPS for both HDD and SSD and some of the benches are designed just for SSD’s. I put this mix in to gauge both aspects of the Momentus XT for the mechanical side and the SSD side to show the improvements or disadvantages if any.

Testing:

HD Tune 3.50 Pro measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. In the 3.50 Pro version, the user can measure not only drive performance as a whole, but more precise file benchmarks, and a random access benchmark as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benchmark:

 

 

 

File Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

Random Access Benchmark:

 

 

 

The Momentus XT just blows away the traditional Seagate 3.5" drive and bridges the gap between mechanical and solid state drives. In a few of the tests, the RAID 0 setup of the Momentus XT drives beat out some of the solid state drives.

Testing:

HD Tach v3.0.4.0: HD Tach is another hard drive benchmark utility, much like HD Tune. This benchmark will measure the average read speed, the random access time, and the amount of the CPU used during operation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP3: SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful.

 

Physical Disks

 

 

In the HD Tach tests, the Momentus XT again showed improvement over a standard mechanical drive. The burst speeds in single drive mode almost matched the SSD's and when in a RAID configuration, destroyed every comparison drive. For the Sandra tests, the same showed, with the Momentus XT bridging the gap between HDD and SDD.

Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 2.2: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds for the drives in 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data. For the test we chose the 100MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In CDM, the trend continues with the Momentus XT being faster then the standard HDD and at times reaching into the SSD realm, especially when in RAID configuration, where it had the highest 512KB write speed and very close sequential read and write speeds to the SSD's.

Testing:

Atto Disk Benchmark v2.34: Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good, hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In ATTO, the 4K block read showed massive improvement with the Momentus XT. The rest of the tests were on par with the traditional mechanical drive with the exception of the 512K and 1M writes where it pulled ahead.

 

Testing:

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark designed for the speeds of solid state drives, however it will also work for traditional hard drives as well. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds and access time for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write and overall performance of the drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the AS SSD tests, while not as fast as SSD's, the Momentus XT still was faster than a traditional hard drive.

Testing:

IOMeter is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998 - since then it got wide spread within the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read:

 

 

 

Write:

 

 

 

As a single drive, in IOMeter, the Momentus XT was a bit slower overall, but in a RAID 0 configuration it showed the power it can harness.

Testing:

PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the hard drive test suite. The measurement for the hard drive suite will be the total score, then the scoring for each test will be broken down. There are a total of eight hard drive tests within PCMark Vantage and all eight will be run to gauge the performance of each drive tested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In PCMark Vantage, the Momentus XT truly was the pathway between the standard mechanical drive and the lightning fast solid state drives, remaining in the middle of both.

Testing:

In the world of computing, everyone likes a computer that can start up and shut down quickly. The ability to boot into your system as fast as possible allows you to start the tasks you set out to do that much faster. The sweet spot is about 30 seconds or less. With conventional hard drives it is possible, but very hard to get. With the speed of SSDs it should be easier but there is only one way to tell and that is test it out. To run these tests, I used a stop watch to calculate the number of seconds it took from pressing the power button on the case, to having a fully functioning desktop. For the shut down test, I timed from the click of the shut down button in the start menu, until power was off to the system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While still above the 30 second sweet spot, the Momentus XT was able to pull off a boot 13 seconds faster than a traditional hard drive. The Momentus XT even had the fastest shut down time of all the drives, including the SSD's.

Conclusion:

The Seagate Momentus XT has been dubbed around the net as a SSD killer. Would I call it that? No, but what I would call it an HDD killer. The Momentus XT beats out traditional hard drives in just about every test. This drive is the perfect stepping stone for those who want the increased speed that a SSD provides, but require more space than current SSD's can deliver (and be cost effective). The best part of the Momentus XT is that with the intelligence of the hardware, the more you work with it, the more it will learns your habits, and the faster it gets. There is no other drive currently on the market that does this and does it well.

With the scores aside, benchmark numbers aren’t always truly representative of what you see in everyday performance. One measure of this drive’s speed is the boot up process. My PC starts up 13 seconds faster than with the traditional hard drive. In addition to the faster boot, it's more efficient at running frequently used programs such as Photoshop, games and day to day applications, making them nice and snappy.

I was fortunate enough to actually start testing the Hybrid back in the alpha stages of its design and I quickly came to realize the potential it had. In fact, I received the Momentus XT alpha drive before ever touching an SSD for review and I must admit, I prefer the capacity and snappiness of the Momentus XT drive to any of the SSD's that I own. Now that I have two of them in a RAID setup, I would not spend the extra money on another SSD. As long as I can have the speed and capacity of the Momentus XT, I'll pick one over an SSD every time.

Because of the nature of this type of technology, I took the opportunity to speak with some of the Seagate engineers during the testing and one question that was eating at my mind is: "What happens if the SSD portion of the drive fails?" Everyone with important documents and photos does not want to be left fighting for our data. The engineers assured me that in the unlikely event the SSD fails, then the algorithm accounts for the loss and it only stores the data on the physical drive. They also commented that the information stored on the SSD portion is mirrored on the physical drive as well, so no data will be lost with a failure of the SSD. In essence the device would act just like any other mechanical drive from that point forward.

Right now, a 128GB SSD will run you an about $300, but the Seagate Momentus XT will have a MSRP of ~ $156 for the 500GB drive we tested here. So for the price of one 128GB SSD, you can purchase two Momentus XT drives, run them in a RAID 0 configuration, almost match the speed, and get eight times the storage. I don't know about you, but a terabyte of storage with speeds almost as fast an SSD, sure sounds great to me. When it comes to buying a hard drive, I look for price and for performance. On that note, I’m very impressed with Momentus XT. It’s been great testing this new device and I definitely recommend it.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: